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Archaeology: Overview

archaeology site
The Public Archaeology Laboratory of Pawtucket excavated the site of the former Rhode Island State Prison before construction of the Providence Place Mall.

The last decade has seen important finds in archaeological projects funded by RIHPHC. On Block Island, archaeologists have discovered the remains of an Indian village dating from 2000 B.C., the oldest year-round village known in southern New England. Recently, archaeologists have located maize in a site which predates the arrival of Europeans in Rhode Island, the first plant material evidence of Native Americans' agricultural practices. Excavations at Smith's Castle, in North Kingstown, have revealed elements of a colonial trading post.

The archaeological component of historical preservation calls for a specialized approach to protecting resources. As a result of having identified more than 2,000 sites throughout the state, Commission archaeologists are able to predict the likelihood that a given area contains archaeological sites. This ability to predict with reliability where archaeological sites will be located is an important goal of the Commission's archaeology program.

The Commission is also responsible for monitoring all archaeological explorations of state-owned land and water. Artifacts recovered during excavations are cared for and stored under the supervision of the Commission. More than 100,000 artifacts have been cataloged and are available at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission repository to scholars and students working on research projects.

For more information about the RIHPHC Archaeology program, contact Charlotte Taylor at (401) 222-4140 or Timothy Ives at (401) 222-4139.